July 29, 2002 4:20 PM PDT

Attack disables music industry Web site

WASHINGTON--The Recording Industry Association of America's Web site was unreachable over the weekend due to a denial-of-service attack.

The apparently deliberate overload rendered the RIAA.org site unavailable for portions of four days and came after the group endorsed legislation to allow copyright holders to disrupt peer-to-peer networks.

The malicious flood started on Friday and did not involve any intrusion into the RIAA's internal network, a representative for the trade association said on Monday afternoon. Nobody has claimed credit for the denial-of-service attack, which ended at 2 a.m. PDT on Monday.

"Don't they have something better to do during the summer than hack our site?" asked the RIAA representative, who asked not to be identified. "Perhaps it at least took 10 minutes away from stealing music."

Denial-of-service attacks overwhelm an Internet site by enlisting hundreds or thousands of other machines that attempt to make simultaneous connections. The resulting overload resembles a physical traffic jam: Few people can get through.

On Thursday, the RIAA endorsed a bill written by Rep. Howard Berman, D-Calif., that would authorize copyright holders to begin "blocking, diverting or otherwise impairing" peer-to-peer networks.

RIAA CEO Hilary Rosen said in a statement that Berman's bill was "an innovative approach," adding that "it makes sense to clarify existing laws to ensure that copyright owners--those who actually take the time and effort to create an artistic work--are at least able to defend their works from mass piracy."

Berman's bill, co-authored with Rep. Howard Coble, R-N.C., would allow the RIAA to engage in precisely this kind of denial-of-service attack against peer-to-peer networks where illicit copies of music are traded.

The RIAA, which receives connectivity through WorldCom's UUNet subsidiary, said it would not speculate about the reason for the attack. A representative said it appears to have been the first time the group's site had been knocked offline.

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